Reflection-Week 2

“Clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 13:14)
Lent is a time of prayer and penance, conversion and commitment and sharing in Truth and let us enter with thanksgiving into this second week of preparation, especially for all the insights and graces we received as we meditated last week on the blessed fact that we are the temple of the Holy Spirit. 
Our focus of meditation this week is Romans 13:14 which exhort us to ‘clothe yourself with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature’. Let us pray that the reflection on this verse, which proved pivotal in the life of St. Augustine in beginning his transformation from a person led by his sensual and intellectual pursuits to a person led by the spirit of Jesus may have the same effect in us as we, as a movement and as an individual, prepare to clothe ourselves with the white linen of holiness.
At any given moment, we can be led by our bodily cravings, desires of the soul (emotions, mind or will) or by our spirit. Scripture makes it quite evident, especially in Romans 8: 5-14 that only a life led by the spirit results in peace and life whereas a life led by sinful nature results in death, which is a life that cannot have a fellowship with God. All temptations are aimed at making us respond in our body or soul, whereas the Spirit of God is always nudging us to respond in the Spirit. Very much aware of the frailty of our human nature weakened by sin, St. Paul urges each one of us to ‘live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature (Gal 5:16).
What is the Spirit’s answer to the leaning of a person to sin and self? How does Jesus’ victory over sin on the Cross of Calvary affect my spiritual walk? It begins by ‘Putting on Jesus Christ’ (Rom 13:14). But how do we apply it practically? Fr. Reneiro Cantalamessa, the papal preacher puts it this way. In the olden days, people believed in the Ptolemic version of solar system with the earth at the centre and the sun and planets revolving around the earth. Then came Copernicus with his radical theory that the Sun was at the centre and all the others revolved around it. Even we know that to our natural senses, the earth seems to be stationary where as our eyes behold the sun moving from east to west. But progress in science has made us realise that truth often is beyond the realm of the senses. Right from the day we were born, we lived in the Ptolemic version with ‘I’ as the centre. Our happiness depended on our needs/fancies being met. We cried, argued and manipulated others for our happiness. Then one day, by grace, the truth was revealed to us that a life of self is a doomed ship on the verge of destruction and we jumped onto the life boat of Jesus, to the unsinkable ship of Copernican version of new life with Jesus as Centre. This is real repentance. But as we teach in the Renewal, submission to the Lordship of Jesus is to become a lifestyle for you and me. Our mind and heart must always be asking the Lord with love to direct our daily steps according to His pleasure. But unfortunately, most of us would have accepted Jesus as Lord but may be living a life that pleases ourselves. Hence the command in verse 11… the hour has come for you to wake up from your sleep. Sleep is often mentioned in the Scriptures with reference to a life of sin and sloth. To start off, can we passionately pray to hate this life of self pleasing and desire to live just to please and honour our Lord? A conscious decision to leave the Ptolemic world to embrace the Kingdom world where Jesus is the Centre of everything.
Pope St. Gregory the Great speaks about conversion beautifully when he says ‘There are in truth three states of the converted: the beginning, the middle and the perfection. In the beginning they experience the charms of sweetness; in the middle the contests of temptation; and in the end the fullness of perfection. We know how much it is true in our lives! How excited we were at the beginning when the chains of habitual sins and patterns were broken as we were set free! But what happened in the middle when fierce storms of temptations lashed against our house? Let us be honest, come to our senses and walk back like the prodigal son from the pigsty of a self centered life to the Real Home of a Christ Centered One. The Spirit longs for you and me to experience the end state of fullness of perfection. You may not have a great feeling of remorse or regret right now to make this radical choice. But remember what St. Francis de Sales says ‘One single act done with aridity (dryness) of spirit is worth more than many done with feelings of devotion. Repentance is not a choice based on feelings, it’s a choice based on conviction. Remember how you feel when you put on brand new clothes? But putting on Lord Jesus Christ makes you infinitely more beautiful than your new clothes. Get out of your night clothes of selfish life forever and wear the brand new morning clothes of redemption with which God the Father clothes you.
The second part of the meditation is on our thought life. ‘Do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature’. That’s where most of us really struggle. The hardest battle for us is to restrain and bridle our desires, "in the desires of our flesh" (Eph. 2:3), "to refrain yourselves from carnal desires which war against the soul" (1 Pet. 2:11). Do we have to constantly cry like Paul ‘I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, what I hate I do’ (Rom 7:15). Most people put on a mask and even minister and talk/sing about Jesus who saves while in their personal lives, they live a defeated life. How can we live a victorious life over our sinful desires?
Live by the Spirit AND YOU WILL NOT GRATIFY the desires of the flesh (Gal 5:16). That is a tremendous statement. Scripture assures that if our mind, emotions and will are led by the Spirit, we cannot gratify the desires of the flesh. Here, flesh does not mean our human body; it means human nature under the influence of original sin. A person who had been illuminated by the Spirit knows that through baptism, our old self has already been crucified with him (Rom 6:6). He always considers himself as a person dead to sin but alive to God (Rom 6:11). Can temptation be effective against a dead person? Never. A lustful thought comes and you declare ‘I am dead to all woman/man except my spouse’. A judgmental thought occurs but you say to that thought, “Sorry, you came to the wrong address, I am dead to all sinful thoughts and alive only to Godly thoughts”!!! How refreshing it is to constantly put to death the deeds of the body by the sword of the Spirit? (cf Rom 8:13) How beautiful it is to always fill your thoughts with that of God?  To St. John of the Cross ‘Contemplation is nothing else than a secret, peaceful, and loving infusion of God, which if admitted, will set the soul on fire with the Spirit of love’! To live a life in this hectic world constantly thinking of your lover with our soul on fire.  Maybe you can download that old song ‘Turn your eyes’ reworked by Michael W. Smith and listen to its poignant words “Turn your eyes upon Jesus / look full in His wonderful face / all the things of earth will grow strangely dim/ in the light of His glory and grace/…”
Every day, in your personal prayer time, surrender your senses, emotions and thought life to the Lordship of Jesus. Memorise and repeat Galatians 5:24 every now and then. Count every temptation as an opportunity to progress to the next level of fellowship with God. Before going to sleep, consider how you led your life that day. Was it in the Lordship of Jesus or did you allow your self to rule? Seek forgiveness for flirting with self and recommit yourself to His Lordship.
Let me wind up with a simple story. Once there was a granddad who was very fond of his grandchild. One day, he noticed that his grandson came back with a grumpy face from school because he was bullied by his classmates. To encourage him to make the right choice, the grandpa told this story to his little one. Once there lived in a jungle two wolves. One was a ferocious selfish wolf who always loved to fight and pick quarrels. The other one was a meek and gentle wolf who never fought unless he had to, but loved to help and encourage others. Filled with curiosity, the boy asked his grandpa ‘If they fought among each other, who will win?’ To which the grandpa replied ‘the one whom you feed’. Both the wolves are within you only and the one whom you feed will win!
May you always feed your spirit with the Word, Sacraments, fellowship, fasting, almsgiving, worship, etc. so that you will always have the strength in the Lord to cling close to Him at all times, especially in times of temptations. Feed yourself thoroughly with the Word for either the Word will keep you from sin or sin will keep you from the Word. Remember, whom you feed will win!
Some practical steps to do:
  • Mount a small crucifix in your room. Meditate on the Lord Jesus on the Cross. See all your sins, wounds upon it. Ask the Spirit to make you realise that you are dead to sin. Meditate verses 11 to 14 of Romans 6.
  • Every time you go for the Eucharist, along with the paten and chalice, offer your bodies (emotions, thoughts, senses etc) as instruments of holiness.
  • Guard your thought life with the anti-virus of the Holy Spirit. Never let any selfish/sensual thoughts develop in your mind but immediately uplift your mind to Jesus, your real Joy-giver.
  • Update your anti-virus every day with the Word of God and some solid time of praise and worship and a quick scan before you sleep.
Scripture verse to memorise: “those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires” (Gal 5:24).
Tomas Michael
Trivandrum, India  
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